How Medical Marijuana Sales Impact Alcohol Sales

According to a paper recently published by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University, alcohol sales fell by 15% in states where medical marijuana is legal. This study provides further evidence that marijuana legalization helps reduce alcohol abuse. Cannabis legalization lowering alcohol sales is encouraging, since most experts agree that cannabis is much safer for human consumption than alcohol.

Gathering Data

To determine what effect if any marijuana legalization had on alcohol sales, researchers for this study looked at Nielsen’s Retail Scanner Database which includes all product sales from 90 major retailers in the United States. They then compared alcohol sales in states that have legalized medical marijuana programs to those that have not. Next they looked at sales in each state before and after they had legalized marijuana. To make sure the study gathered accurate data, researchers corrected for variables that traditionally affect alcohol sales rates such as income, race and location.

The Effects Of Recreational Marijuana

The study concluded that “counties located in medical marijuana states reduced monthly alcohol sales by 15 percent,” and that “marijuana and alcohol are strong substitutes for each other,” which is one possible reason as to why marijuana and alcohol sales correlate so strongly.

How will recreational cannabis effect alcohol sales? The arduous process of meeting with a physician to gain access to medical marijuana makes the market for cannabis selective. In states like California, Colorado and the other 6 states who have passed recreational legalization bills, marijuana will be accessible by everyone over 21. This is sure to hurt alcohol sales even further.

This study is not the only one analyzing the complicated relationship between cannabis and alcohol. One review found that 16 of 39 studies agreed marijuana lowers alcohol use while 10 of those 39 studies said that cannabis legalization actually increased alcohol use. The remaining 13 studies found no correlation between the two.

A majority of studies do agree that the legalization of marijuana lowers alcohol sales. Even though the evidence is conflicting, the wave of recreational cannabis legalization sweeping across the United States will continue to negatively impact alcohol sales.

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